Hockey

Guillaume Lefrançois - Wednesday Jan. 15, 2014 13:25 ET

Jaromir Jagr: Canada, U.S. will face difficulties on larger ice

Czech star ready to compete at fifth Olympic Games

Jaromir Jagr
Czech Republic star Jaromir Jagr expects several surprises for the upcoming Olympic hockey tournament. (Samuel Kubani/Getty Images)

If Jaromir Jagr seemed cynical last month when he said that experience was the main quality of the Czech hockey team going to the Sochi Games, he regained his seriousness when he passed through Montreal on Tuesday.

Jagr started with explaining his theory on the difficulties that Canada and the United States could encounter in a competition played on a rink with international dimensions.

“It’s a completely different hockey,” said Jagr. “It wouldn’t be a problem if you had a month to prepare yourself, but you only get one practice before the games begin.”

“When you play here [in North America], you simply have to wait along the sides, whereas when you get there [in Europe] you have to keep on skating continually. It’s completely different. For sure there will be some European players that you do not know that could turn out being important actors during the Olympic tournament.”

Amongst these unexpected players, Jagr nominated his fellow countryman Petr Nedved, another forty-something that we know well, but that hasn’t been playing in the NHL since 2007.

“I would have been surprised if he had not been part of the team" said Jagr. "He plays well, and he plays well on the big rink. I think he’s going to be a surprise to many.”

Praise for Plekanec

Jagr also praised the qualities of Czech captain Tomas Plekanec. I asked Jagr if his good friend becomes chattier when he speaks his first language instead of English.

“Not really, but that doesn’t bother me," Jagr said of the Montreal Canadiens centre. "I’ve played with many great players. They didn’t speak much in the change room, but they lead by example. It’s not because you talk in the change room that you’re going to be useful on the rink. It’s harder to be effective on the rink than in the change room!”

Jagr concealed a half smile when he learned that Montreal coach Michel Therrien talked on Monday about Plekanec being a candidate for the Selke Trophy.

“We have played together often on the national team and during the lockout. I don’t want to play with him for his defensive abilities; I want to score some goals! So, I’ve never considered him a defence centre.”

Once more, we have confirmation: you never get bored when you place a microphone in front of Jaromir Jagr.

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